There’s something about the transition from one calendar year to another that creates a sense of hopeful anticipation. I’ve always been somewhat puzzled at why we make such a big deal about something that really is very arbitrary and inconsequential. Truth be told, no fundamental reality shifted in the moments between December 31, 2018 and January 1, 2019. All that really happened is we created a solid month of awkwardly trying to figure out how to turn an 8 into a 9 every time we have to date a document. None-the-less, there is a certain excitement that comes with the beginning of a new year. It is a time for reflection on past successes and failures, and resolving to make the next year better than the last.
A word that is often thrown around at this time of year is potential. Potential is a word that makes me more than a little bit uncomfortable. Seymour Owls head football coach, Mike Kelly, put words to my discomfort in a podcast last year. He said, “Potential is unrealized talent. You have the ability, but you are underachieving.” There are certainly cases in which potential points to areas where one might have certain abilities. More often than not, however, potential points to opportunities of which we have yet to take advantage. Potential means we have the ability to succeed, but have yet to act upon that ability. Potential is just a nice way of saying you haven’t done it yet.
Potential means we have the ability to succeed, but have yet to act upon that ability.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Hindsight is 20/20.” It’s easy to see what could or should have taken place when looking back at what has already happened. I think that’s part of what makes the new year such a big deal. It’s a moment in time when we pause to look back over all that has been and forward to what could be in an effort to make better use of the potential found in the days ahead. Where this becomes extremely disconcerting is when we look back over the course of several years. How many times have you made the same resolutions year after year? How many times have you said that this was going to be the year you finally ____________? Resolutions have become the punchline of the New Year’s holiday. And while there are certainly many instances where our expectations overreach our abilities, more often than not, our resolutions point to things we can/should do, but haven’t. In other words, resolutions point to potential.
The word potential creates discomfort in me because far too often, potential leads to procrastination. We assume that since we have the ability or opportunity it will naturally come to pass. We excuse our failure to act appropriately, believing that the potential of today will carry over to tomorrow. The problem is time waits for no one. All of our potential carries expiration dates. I can think of numerous instances where I wasted my potential as I reflect on my past. And as I listen to the clock on the wall tick, I realize the potential of today is quickly passing. Yesterday is gone. We aren’t promised tomorrow. If our potential is ever to be realized, we need to seize the opportunity afforded to us TODAY!
Potential is only of value to us when we take the necessary steps to turn it into production.
Potential is only of value to us when we take the necessary steps to turn it into production. I don’t want to waste any of the gifts or abilities God has granted me. I don’t want to look back over the years of my life, mourning the “coulda, shoulda, woulda’s” of wasted potential. In Ephesians 5:15-16, Paul gives us this challenge, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” You and I have amazing potential. Let’s carefully look at our lives and see where the potential lies. Then, let’s have the wisdom to act and turn that potential into production. Dr. Angela Duckworth puts it this way, “Without effort, your talent is nothing more than your unmet potential. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t. With effort, talent becomes skill and, at the very same time, effort makes skill productive.” So, what are you waiting for???
 Duckworth, Angela. Grit:The Power of Passion and Perseverance. New York, NY: Scribner, 2016, p. 51.